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Handbook for Library Trustees of New York


Libraries provide the “currency” for today’s information economy. In cities and towns, rural, suburban and urban, throughout New York, libraries are equipping people with the tools necessary for life success. With skilled and knowledgeable library staff, a wide array of online resources, traditional print collections, exciting program offerings, and inviting and welcoming public spaces, libraries are experiencing unprecedented increases in public use.

New York’s 756 public libraries are community gateways to the world’s information resources. Whether in pursuit of an entertaining escape from today’s complexities or a timely solution to a difficult business question or help with a school research project, New Yorkers use their local libraries to advance and enhance their personal, educational, and work lives. As essential community resources for lifelong learning, public libraries are indispensable parts of this state’s economic, cultural, educational and social infrastructure.

Library trustees play a special, keenly important role in shepherding the dedicated and prudent use of library resources. Always striving to provide the best service which benefits and supports the entire community, trustees must make policy, personnel and fiscal decisions crucial to a positive direction for the library. While delegating the day-to-day activities to competent staff, the library trustees must always be mindful of how their decisions impact the lives of people and the future of their community. As public officers, library trustees carry an essential and vital set of fiduciary and legal responsibilities.

Library trustees are responsible to the library and to the public it serves. Trustees must fulfill the duties commonly referred to as “care, loyalty, and obedience” and must be tireless advocates for improving library services. Forward-looking, informed trustees are needed to guide their libraries.  Reinforcing the traditional services of libraries and welcoming the new, expanded opportunities of broadband Internet access, makerspaces and other technologies, trustees must position their libraries as essential and vital resources for individual and community success.

This new edition of the Handbook for Library Trustees in New York State provides advice, guidance and practical information to help trustees succeed in their important stewardship and governance roles.  As the New York State Library’s Coordinator of Statewide Library Services and Director of the Division of Library Development, I am pleased to congratulate and to thank the public library systems and the Library Trustees Association of New York State (LTA) for the publication (in print and online) of this new edition. I encourage every trustee to refer frequently to this useful tool as you undertake the exciting challenges and responsibilities of delivering high-quality public services to your communities.

Carol A. Desch
Coordinator of Statewide Library Services and Director of the Division of Library Development
New York State Library
Office of Cultural Education
New York State Education Department